12 Thoughts of the Season – #6

The holiday break allows us time to catch up on all our movie viewing, visit the box office for the new releases and snuggle under warm blankets at home to watch the classics. My Top 5 Holiday Movie list does have some Christmas classics, but it also contains any movie where the holidays come up. These are shows I tend to watch every season depending on what kind of mood I’m in. Be prepared: although I’ve included the fun there is also the sappy and the damn the man spirit (after a full day of crazy shopping malls and traffic jams sometimes you need a little dark humour…)

  1. Love Actually
    • Not a season goes by that I don’t watch this romantic, heart wrenching love story. It’s funny & honest. I cry, I laugh.
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    • Dr. Seuss was a talented writer and could pass on meaningful life lessons in short and humorous stories. Of course when I watch this I look under my tree with the generous loot and feel a bit guilty knowing if it was empty I don’t think I’d be happy and singing…
  3. The Ref
    • Okay, here’s the dark comedy. This show isn’t meant for those who easily take offense and like their Christmas specials to be all carols and magic. Dennis Leary has a knack for stringing together a long list of profanities, but if you’re holidays (or your life for that matter) has ever been less than perfect or you’ve ever had the urge to tell someone to gag your mother, then you might get a kick out of this holiday movie.
  4. Sleepless In Seattle/When Harry Met Sally
    • I couldn’t chose between the two of these rom/coms. Even though neither of them are set exclusively at Christmas, I think of them every year with Meg Ryan singing ‘horses, horses, horse’ or dragging a tree down the road through the snow.
  5. Elf
    • Aside from the Grinch, this is one of those shows I watch with the kids every year. There are jokes for both kids and adults alike making it a great movie belonging on my holiday viewing list. How many movies can boast about singing a duet in a shower scene and show it in a kid-friendly way?

There are also those fantastic Epic Trilogies (or more) that my fellow binge watchers would agree are great escapes: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Godfather.

12 Thoughts of the Season – #5

Poor Emily was burdened with so many unpractical gifts (see yesterdays post), but did she even stop and think about how much her dear Edward had to fork over to lavish her with such oddities? The fact that she ended it with a lawyer shows a lack of empathy on her part; Edwards heart was in the right place, even if his head wasn’t. I think a return gift of some medical help would have been what a true love would do!

In reality, the carol itself dates back to around the 16th Century. Christmas was celebrated over twelve days and if living in a wealthy castle one could receive gifts on each day. If you think of the song taking place in the middle ages, in a castle, doesn’t this just sound like one heck of a party? Today it would end much more like Emily’s letters. With inflation, Edward would have to be very wealthy indeed. And those poor, hard working milk maids…they’d probably have to moonlight as ladies dancing!

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12 Thoughts of the Season – #4

Okay, now it’s time for a little comedy. There’s no doubt about it, the holidays are stressful. Whether you’re struggling to make ends meet or have enough green to put on a lavish celebration, there is plenty of pressure to go around: the roads are crowded as traffic increases taking passengers to their holiday celebrations and shopping, accidents go up, line-ups are long, housework has quadrupled since we’ve added all the extra baking, decorating and paraphernalia into our homes. As we stand in a crowd of people caroling, we desperately try to stay on key and fake our way through the unknown lyrics of songs we’ve heard our whole lives. We try to live up to our children’s expectations of the magic and whimsy they’ve been promised and attempt to play the perfect host to all the guests we’ve invited to share in our holiday fun. And to top it all off, we insist on portraying the joy and carefree attitude we may or may not feel. Sound rather dispirited? Is there a Scrooge behind these words? Not at all! My point, if I have one, is that it is important to set aside a moment—some time in your busy, crazy schedule, to stop. Breath. And find a way to laugh. Here is one of my favorite comedy moments that puts a smile on my tired face and reminds me not to take it all too seriously.

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
(A Correspondence)
by
John Julius Norwich

25th December.
My dearest darling,
That partridge, in that lovely little pear tree! What an enchanting, romantic, poetic present! Bless you and thank you.
Your deeply loving Emily.

26th December.
Mr dearest darling Edward,
The two turtle doves arrived this morning and are cooing away in the pear tree as I write. I’m so touched and grateful.
With undying love, as always, Emily.

27th December.
My darling Edward,
You do thinks of the most original presents: whoever thought of sending anybody three French hens? Do they really come all the way from France? It’s a pity that we have no chicken coops, but I expect we’ll find some. Thank you, anyway, they’re lovely.
Your loving Emily.

28th December.
Dearest Edward,
What a surprise – four calling birds arrived this morning. They are very sweet, even if they do call rather loudly – they make telephoning impossible. But I expect they’ll calm down when they get used to their new home. Anyway, I’m very grateful – of course I am.
Love from Emily.

29th December.
Dearest Edward,
The postman has just delivered five most beautiful gold rings, one for each finger, and all fitting perfectly. A really lovely present – lovelier in a way than birds, which do take rather a lot of looking after. The four that arrived yesterday are still making a terrible row, and I’m afraid none of use got much sleep last night. Mummy says she wants us to use the rings to ‘wring’ their necks – she’s only joking, I think; though I know what she means. But I love the rings. Bless you.
Love, Emily.

30th December.
Dear Edward,
Whatever I expected to find when I opened the front door this morning, it certainly wasn’t six socking great geese laying eggs all over the doorstep. Frankly, I rather hoped you had stopped sending me birds – we have no room for them and they have already ruined the croquet lawn. I know you meant well, but – let’s call a halt, shall we?
Love, Emily.

31st December.
Edward,
I thought I said no more birds; but this morning I woke up to find no less than seven swans all trying to get into our tiny goldfish pond. I’d rather not thinks what happened to the goldfish. The whole house seems to be full of birds – to say nothing of what they leave behind them. Please, please STOP.
Your Emily.

1st January.
Frankly, I think I prefer the birds. What am I to do with eight milkmaids – AND their cows? Is this some kind of a joke? If so, I’m afraid I don’t find it very amusing.
Emily

2nd January.

Look here Edward, this has gone far enough. You say you’re sending me nine ladies dancing; all I can say is that judging from the way they dance, they’re certainly not ladies. The village just isn’t accustomed to seeing a regiment of shameless hussies with nothing on but their lipstick cavorting round the green – and it’s Mummy and I who get blamed. If you value our friendship – which I do less and less – kindly stop this ridiculous behaviour at once.
Emily

3rd January.
As I write this letter, ten disgusting old men are prancing abour all over what used to be the garden – before the geese and the swans and the cows got at it; and several of them, I notice, are taking inexcusable liberties with the milkmaids. Meanwhile the neighbours are trying to have us evicted. I shall never speak to you again.
Emily

4th January.
This is the last straw. You know I detest bagpipes. The place has now become something between a menagerie and a madhouse and a man from the Council has just declared it unfit for habitation. At least Mummy has been spared this last outrage; they took her away yesterday afternoon in an ambulance. I hope you’re satisfied.

5th January.
Sir,
Our client, Miss Emily Wilbraham, instructs me to inform you that with the arrival on her premises a half-past seven this morning of the entire percussion section of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and several of their friends she has no course left open to her but to seek an injunction to prevent your importuning her further. I am making arrangements for the return of much assorted livestock.

I am, Sir, Yours faithfully,
G.CREEP
Solicitor-at-law

12 Thoughts of the Season.

‘Tis the season! For the next 12 days I will share with you my holiday thoughts and good cheer. Today’s thought is around Christmas or other holiday traditions. Putting lights on the house, setting up a tree, opening presents on Christmas day —all fairly standard customs. I like starting my own family traditions so here are two of my favorites; feel free to share your own!

  1. On Christmas Eve, each member of my family takes turns being interviewed. We set up the video camera and three of us ask the chosen candidate all sorts of questions. Who are your friends? What do you want to be when you grow up? Tell us about your favorite adventure that you had this year? Weve been doing this since my kids were very little. The questions they ask are almost as entertaining as the answers they give!
  2. Another Christmas Eve custom we have is to open one present. I remember getting to do this when I was a kid, but I’ve put a new, somewhat less exciting, spin on it. The gift is always Pjs. The reason I like doing this is so that everyone can have new, clean pajamas to sleep in and they look great for all the pictures Christmas morning 🙂

Top 5 Grammar Challenges

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Grammar was never my strong area of expertise. The more I write, edit and re-write and edit some more, the better I am at polishing this skill. There are a few things that I’ve encountered that often trip me up or seem to be a bane to writers everywhere. This week’s Top 5 takes a look at the ones that I found most noteworthy.

  1. The Semicolon;

    • Between speaking with writers, reading many online discussions and my own experience, it is quiet clear that this seemingly harmless punctuation mark causes a lot of problems. Personally I love the semicolon; I like adding additional thoughts onto previous ones. The use of it can be controversial and some people find it too complex and avoid using it all together. For a great explanation on How to use a Semicolon, check out The Oatmeal.
  2. However

    • I like this word. I didn’t realize how much I liked it until I started doing a word frequency search on a rough draft of one of my manuscripts. It was used in every chapter at least once. My editor pointed out how this word can really stop the flow of a sentence or idea and I should cut back on the use of it — and this was after I already had. After huffing and puffing about the criticism, I realized she was right. Now I’m much more cautious with how I use this word. But the problems with it it don’t end there. My grammar issue with this world relates back to the dreaded semicolon. I remember distinctively being taught in school that commas surround the word ‘however’, but this is not always the case. My editor made several corrections in my work; however I was still baffled. I scrolled through other well-known novels and saw discrepancies on the punctuation around this useful word.  After researching and trying to determine who was right, I think I’ve finally figured it out. Check out this blog on Daily Writing Tips to put you in the know.
  3. Noddedcats.gif

    • It wasn’t until I started writing a novel that I realized how many times people nod when they talk or think. This reflexive head bobbing only appears as an odd obsession when you start writing out dialogue in a story. If you’re like me and picture a scene as you are writing it, you will see a bunch of nodding, but if you note it down every time your writing becomes repetitive and seems rather pedantic. I thought maybe it was just me and perhaps it spoke of an inept ability to write…then I started pouring over highly acclaimed writing. Guess what? People nodded in their books too! And now my attention has been drawn to it, I think people nod too much (in books and IRL lol). Unfortunately, there’s no quick work around to replace this word. There are other things to write instead of ‘nodded’, but I have yet to find a blog to point you to for advice…I may have to write it myself (gasp!).
  4. Accept vs Except

    • I accept that there is a very clear indication when these words are used, except I can still get them completely mixed up. After the red pen has pointed out my predictable confusion of which word to use, you’d think I would learn…alas they can still trip me up. What’s strange is that when they have been used correctly, how to use them makes perfect sense to me—of course that’s how to use that word! However, when I’m in the thick of it, the reasoning is blurred. Thank goodness I have a patient editor to help me with these things!
  5. Ellipsis vs Em Dash

    • The more I write the clearer it is to me that some things are more about personal preference than a matter of right or wrong…or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Especially when you are writing dialogue or someone’s thoughts these useful tools can add a much needed pause or addition —interrupting when someone is speaking is another use for the em dash. The Punctuation Guide is a good resource for how to use an em dash. So why, you may ask, is this a challenge? Sometimes I like trailing thoughts when a character speaks. It’s not that they are interrupted, it’s as if they have more to say, but are holding back or expect another character to finish the thought for them.
      • “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or…”
    • The challenge comes in with putting a period after the quotation marks: “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or…”. I just don’t like the way this looks. Another option is to add a forth dot: “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or….” But this example is actually a question so perhaps there should be a ? at the end of that sentence. If this gets your head spinning you may want to refer to the The Punctuation Guide for a full explanation on how the ellipsis can be used.
Please share your own grammar challenges in the comments or add your thoughts to my Top 5!

My Top 5 Fall Highlights

holiday-party-toastMy posts generally are intended to educate and inspire. I thought I would switch it up a bit and write about my own experiences that were, not only educational and inspiring for me, but rewarding and even worth celebrating. So raise your glass with me to toast a few great moments.

  1. I Started This Blogblog
    • This has been on my ‘to-do’ list for awhile now, but I’m really good at procrastinating (or at least filling up my time with other things!) I’m excited about being part of the blogging community, learning, sharing and discovering!
  2. Published My 3rd NovelCover3bordermap
    • I never thought I would have the focus or drive to actually write one full novel (see above: procrastination). I am so excited that I published all three in this trilogy – in fact, it’s become my obsession as I have written two more books with the last of the series in progress. Wahoo!
  3. Getting Out ThereFred_Stenson_-_Oct_25th
    • It has been a busy few weeks between visiting junior high classes and running inspiring parent sessions. In addition to those noteworthy events, I have had the Suzanne Harris 10-1pleasure of meeting local writers. Fred Stenson shared his fascinating story of his long career as a writer & novelist. CAA’s Writing Coach  Suzanne Harris inspired me when we met (as writers often do) in a quaint little coffee shop.
  4. Minecraft Brings My World AliveKokoroe_GateJPeg
    • I’m so excited! This week students from Gamed Academy  (Minecraft School) are working on a novel study of my book Journey to Kokoroe. They will be building scenes from the story – I can’t wait for Galenia come to life Minecraft style! I will be sure to post pictures on my Instagram in the coming weeks.
  5. Local Writer’s Novel DebutCOVER
    • Tyler Sehn’s fantasy novel Daughter of Shadow will be released this month. The synopsis below has me convinced this is sure to be a best seller…I can’t wait!

Born with one foot in light and one in darkness, she is torn between both.

Melea is the greatest warrior in the world. In service to the Lord of Light, she uses her abilities to kill for his divine vision.  Shadows grow larger as the Light spreads—the world and the forces that define it are changing and Melea is caught in the center.  Melea denies being a villain, refuses to be a hero, and would rather slash with the razors edge than walk along it.

Fate spins, or so it is said, and Melea is cursed with the luck of the dead.

Top 5, Make that 7 Plots

Have you ever read a book and thought that the story seemed sort of familiar? Ever written something that you can’t help but draw connections to other works of art? In his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker points out that most stories fall into one of seven categories.

  1. Overcoming the monster
    • The hero sets out to defeat dark forces or creatures that threaten their home.
  2. Rags to Riches
    • A character that’s poor acquires wealth, love and power only to lose it all, grows as person, and then gets it all back.
  3. The Quest
    • The main character goes on a journey with some companions, faces many obstacles and temptations before achieving their goal.
  4. Voyage and Return
    • The main character goes to a strange land and after overcoming many challenges and threats returns home.
  5. Comedy
    • Humorous characters triumph over disasters resulting in a successful conclusion.
  6. Tragedy
    • The main character is a villain whose failure (or death) is preferable.
  7. Rebirth
    • The main character is a villain who redeems themselves by the end of the story.

Check out this video for example of these 7 plots:

In the comments, feel free to share some other stories that fit into these Plots.